Behind the Scenes: How Social Media Is Being Used in the Local Film Industry

January 14th, 2015 by Chris Henson

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past ten years or so (and not just any rock, but one without TV or Netflix), chances are you have watched a movie that was filmed here in New Orleans. The city – and the state as a whole – has seen an explosion of film and television productions over the past several years, earning the region the title of “Hollywood South.”

From comedies like 21 Jump Street to Oscar-winners like 12 Years a Slave, Louisiana has even surpassed film production stalwarts like Los Angeles and New York City to become the country’s production capital – all thanks to the highly lucrative tax credits introduced in 2002.

And while the big-budget movies are driving the local industry (check out NOLA-shot blockbusters Jurassic World and Terminator: Genisys in theaters this year), this influx has also helped inject momentum into the independent film industry – more specifically, the micro-budget indie film scene. These are projects made by passionate local filmmakers looking to find a foothold in the industry at large.

These are not films the average moviegoer is typically going to be able to see or even hear about. So how do these filmmakers get the word out? How do they raise the funds to even get it made? And how do people find out where they can see these smaller films?

The best and easiest way is through social media, an umbrella term that can be divided into several different platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). The most effective social media strategies take a multi-faceted approach into account and are tailored to suit each medium’s strengths to maximize effectiveness.

I talked to a few local filmmakers about the importance of social media and other Internet marketing strategies. I found that first and foremost on these filmmakers’ minds is exposure, whether for fundraising or promotional purposes.

Fundraising and Promotion

“Facebook is a useful platform that enabled a community to form around the project. It is very useful in promoting fundraisers and screenings,” explains Sam Bass, who has helped with the social media campaigns for two films, How to Disappear Completely and Give Light: Stories from Indigenous Midwives. “Twitter is better for engaging with people outside of your immediate community with the potential to lead to significant opportunities and connections.”

“We began our social media campaign to draw attention to our Kickstarter,” says Hunter Burke of Construct Films, who is using social media to raise funds for and promote the film Atchafalaya. “It was the quickest and most effective way to get our message out.”

Greg Tilton, director-producer of reddit doc, had a similar mindset, but he wanted to lay the groundwork for their project before asking for fundraising help. “Social media was key because I did not want our IndieGoGo campaign to be the first time someone had heard of the project,” he states. “It’s been successful because people who don’t know me or my immediate network are following and engaging the project.”

Mac Alsfeld, the writer-director-star of Father-Like Son, found social media to be most effective after the film was made. “We heavily relied on Twitter to build a relationship with festivals,” he explains. “I think it is important to show festivals that you are the type of filmmaker that will market yourself and that festival to potential filmgoers.”

Getting Help

For these filmmakers and others, this was a very important part of the behind-the-scenes process. For the most part, they were navigating the tricky waters of social media without any substantial professional Internet marketing experience – though some had help.

Burke turned to a friend who had social media marketing and crowdfunding experience. “I really owe a lot to him for educating me on what is standard, what has worked in the past, and also coming up with some wonderful ideas. Without him, I would have been totally lost.”

Lucky enough to be dating someone in the tourism and marketing industry, Tilton found it helpful to have someone more experienced to bounce ideas off of. “As I experimented, talked to her, and read a lot of articles online, I slowly built up my knowledge. She was a great sounding board for ideas.”

Thoughts on Social Media

Even without much prior experience, these filmmakers now have some very astute thoughts about the medium overall gained from their newfound experience.

“I do believe that it is VERY important to have a presence within the social media community,” declares Kenna J. Moore of Ghost of Elysian Films, who was awarded the Emerging Vision Award for a Louisiana Filmmaker at the 2013 New Orleans Film Festival and the Louisiana Shorts Jury Award in 2014. “It is crucial that our image and what is being put out there is closely monitored. I like to have a presence but stay away from all of the ‘look-at-me’ syndrome that one can easily fall victim to in most social media settings.”

“The thing about social media is that it is, at its core, incredibly voyeuristic,” says Tilton. “Many people do follow the musings of their interests, so there is a large audience to be engaged and many want to be a part of something big. You can find that audience.”

Tips for Fellow Filmmakers

As for fellow indie filmmakers feeling overwhelmed by social media, all the filmmakers have useful tips to share:

Bass: “Have a social media strategy. Know how to work it. And don’t panic when nothing happens for a week. The most important things are follow-through and relationship building.”

Alsfeld: “Show people that you have passion. Use your social media to blast information. And even more importantly, have fun. Don’t be boring.”

Burke: “We performed the best when we released media. Posting a picture, an interview with the filmmaker, or a sample of the score really got our audience interested. People really responded to something they could interact with. Make it a fun experience. Keep it simple. Leave them wanting more.”

Moore: “I’ve learned that social media has pros and cons. Some people gain opportunity and references from it. Some social media activity allows for negativity and distraction. I would encourage people to stay focused.”

Tilton: “If you have nothing to say, don’t say anything. So many people are retweeting and posting haphazardly. It’s just a jumble of buzzwords and hashtags. Just make sure it’s always quality and you will find that pays off bigger.”

Additional Resources
Here are some more tips directed specifically at indie filmmakers on making the most out of social media:

7 Tips for Promoting Your Indie Film on Social Media via Premium Beat

Using Social Media to Promote Your Film via Lift-Off International Film Fests

6 Tips on Using Social Media for Your Indie Film via Media-Match

Image Sources:

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